Hogs to play hot Texas A&M Aggies Tuesday in Bud Walton
By Otis Kirk
Arkansas will play host to Texas A&M on Tuesday night as the Hogs return to SEC action.
Texas A&M (15-6, 7-1) has won nine of its last 10 games following a 6-5 start to the season. The Aggies’ lone loss in SEC play was 76-67 on Saturday, Jan. 21, at Kentucky. Eric Musselman knows the Hogs, who are coming off a 67-64 loss on Saturday at No. 17 Baylor, is set to play one of the hottest teams in the SEC.
“I haven’t studied the non-conference,” Musselman said. “I only watch them in conference play. Like I said, they have most of their players back, and then you add a guy like (Julius) Marble and then you add a transfer within the league like (Andersson) Garcia, they have a deep team and they play really hard.”
Sophomore guard Wade Taylor IV leads the Aggies with 14.8 points, four assists and 1.8 steals per outing. Junior forward Henry Coleman III tops to team in rebounding at 5.8 per game. Freshman forward Solomon Washington is tops with 0.6 blocks each game. Coleman also averages 10 points per game. Senior guard Tyrece Radford is averaging 13.6 points, 5. 3 rebounds and two assists each game. Musselman talked about the Aggies style of play being an issue for opponents.
“I think they’re a different matchup for everybody,” Musselman said. “I don’t think it’s just us. You look at what they did last year to end the season, they’re a pretty difficult matchup for everybody the way they won toward the end of the year. I think they have a veteran team. They really know their roles, they play their roles.
“Taylor is a guy that can make threes, he’s got really good quickness. Radford is a matchup problem for everybody in the SEC, not just us. He can play the 2, 3, 4. Marble is a guy inside and can make mid-range shots. And then Coleman is a guy that plays extremely hard, so two big, physical guys that offensive rebound at a high rate. It’s a team that, again, is playing really well in conference play. The last two years they’ve struggled in non-conference and once they’ve gotten to conference play they’ve played with great confidence. And it’s a team that plays really, really hard.”
Alabama tops the SEC standings at a perfect 8-0. The Aggies and Tennessee are next with just the one loss. Among the impressive A&M wins was a 79-63 win at Auburn this past Wednesday. By comparison, Arkansas lost at Auburn 72-59 on Jan. 7. Musselman saw his team give itself a chance to win on Saturday at Baylor, but lost the close game. He talked about how his team will have to bounce back in a short period.
“When you’re down two guys, whether it’s a short turnaround or a long turnaround, you’re banged up, I don’t know how much we can do between now and Tuesday in practice,” Musselman said. “But I know that these guys are going to fight through injuries and show great toughness and grit. That’s what they’ve been doing and they’ll continue to do that, these guys that are in uniform right now.”
Despite missing freshman guard Nick Smith Jr. and sophomore forward Trevon Brazile, Arkansas has played very hard with the exception of the second half in a 97-84 loss at Vanderbilt on Jan. 14.
“Just like everybody in college basketball, every single team, the Vanderbilt second half we didn’t play with the intensity and the defense that we normally do,” Musselman said. “That was a 16-minute segment. There’s been times when we’ve struggled maybe offensively, but we’ve played really hard. For 16 minutes against Vanderbilt, I told you guys the truth of how I felt about our team at that time, and they’ve certainly bounced back. This is a tough one, man, and so are some of the other games, like the game at Missouri that we put ourselves in position to win and we just didn’t.”
Forward Jalen Graham had four points, nine rebounds and four assists against the Bears Saturday. Graham feels the Hogs will be ready when they take the court on Tuesday night.
“I think we’re going to want to get a dub, want to go back home to our crowd and play in front of our fans,” Graham said. “We want to get on a roll and start getting on a win streak. We have to get hot soon. So, we want to turn this around pretty fast.”
Arkansas (14-7, 3-5) and the Aggies will tip Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena. The game will be televised on ESPN2.